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End To End Metrology Solutions

Metrology News recently sat-down virtually with the Metrologic Group CEO, Bertrand Gili, to discuss his view points on the role of manufacturing metrology and its transition and integration into smart factories.

Metrology has become much more strategic to manufacturing over recent years. Can you comment on the role Metrologic Group is performing in delivering integrated metrology solutions to manufacturing?

The Metrologic Group is exclusively focused on providing fully integrated metrology solutions to customers allowing them to manufacture 100% good parts. Metrologic’s 40 years of experience and track record of bringing new technologies to market, through their integration into our Metrolog X4 Universal Metrology Platform, allows us to deliver next generation metrology solutions. We deliver what we call ‘End-to-End Metrology Solutions’ which encompass all aspects of the metrology process from planning through virtual programming to on-machine measurement execution and measured data management. We will be shortly unveiling new products for both planning and data management that will further enhance our total solution offerings.

The CMM has played a crucial role in manufacturing over past decades. Do you see the continued growth of the off-line CMM application, or will near-line and in-line automated metrology solutions take over much of the traditional CMM work? 

I strongly believe that the CMM will still be present over the coming years. However let’s keep in mind that with the current trend to integrate measurement technology directly into the manufacturing process and production lines or providing closed loop feedback for adaptive manufacturing control, current CMMs are not very well suited to integration. In the future, we will see new types of CMM emerging that are more suitable for integration. The high accuracy audit CMM, located in a laboratory, will still exist for sure to perform measuring audit and for investigative purposes.

Metrologic Group is uniquely positioned with its Metrolog X4 and i-Robot software solutions addressing both the conventional and emerging markets. How do you see the two solutions blending in the ‘Factory of the Future’?

With our ‘End-to-End’ modular approach and our willingness to integrate new technologies such as Cobots from various manufacturers, AGV based mobile solutions, and new sensor technologies, we are able to offer customers a smooth transition. They can choose on their own terms to migrate from traditional portable manual devices or automated CMMs to fully integrated near-line and inline adaptive solutions.

The Metrologic Group joined the Sandvik Group a little over 2 years ago. What strategic direction is Sandvik taking with Metrologic? Or have they endorsed the prior strategic direction Metrologic was taking?

Sandvik has endorsed the strategic direction we had already embarked upon. Being part of Sandvik we can now pull on the enormous experience, and accumulated knowledge base, from their vast global customer reach. We will see some initiatives coming in future products that have drawn on these undoubted strengths of Sandvik.

Metrologic is a unique agnostic supplier of metrology software, and a truly universal metrology platform, being able to run portable measuring equipment, CMMs and robot cells.  Addressing such a large global addressable market must be a huge challenge.

From an outsider ‘looking in’ it is probably viewed as such. However, 4 decades of experience have led us to be deeply structured and disciplined in our approach with an unparalleled understanding of 3D metrology. It allows our team to integrate and support new devices into our platform with relative ease. Today we have more than 120 measurement device protocols directly integrated and managed enabling us to truly deliver enterprise-wide measurement solutions.

With the COVID pandemic, a ‘hands-on’ approach to programming CMMs at the machine has added workplace risks and, in any event, has never been an efficient use of expensive CMMs. How does Metrologic motivate the market to trend toward off-line programming using virtual tools? What percentage of CMM programs do you estimate are currently being written off-line and is the percentage varying between industries, size of company etc.

Many of our large automotive and aerospace customers are programming 90% of their CMM inspection programs off-line. Our off-line simulation tools allow them to deliver 100% complete and ready to execute programs to the production floor. In the case of smaller companies, we think the percentage levels are in the low double digits. The COVID pandemic revealed challenges both in the workplace and in remote networking. To alleviate these difficulties, we launched our Weblicense providing the use of our SILMA X4 CMM programming software tools to home based customers. It has proven to be greatly beneficial for many customers and allowed many more traditional CMM programmers to acknowledge the advantages of virtual programming. The cost benefits to manufacturing companies of not using the physical CMM as a programming tool are resulting in improved CMM utilization rates. The post COVID trend will continue to show an increasing migration rate to remote CMM programming.

CMMs never seem to die with many examples of 30+ year old machine still in front-line use. How do you see the retrofit market going forward? Will COVID have any impact on CMM retrofits as more companies turn to virtual CMM programming?

In the past, electronic replacements and obsolete CMM software updates accounted for most of CMM retrofits. Now we increasingly provide CMM retrofits to customers wanting to add new capabilities to their existing CMMs. Laser scanning on a CMM is one example of adding new technology capabilities allowing the measurement of 3D surfaces with point cloud generation for immediate direct comparison to a nominal CAD model. We see a continued growth of the retrofit market as manufacturing requires enhanced data analysis of their parts, alongside the desire for measured data to become more widely available to engineers outside the metrology lab.

The metrology industry is controlled by standards. The CMM industry now has DMIS, I++ and more recently the QIF standard. Which of these standards is Metrologic supporting and how do these standards move further your market success?

Metrologic Group has always been a big advocate of supporting the standardization initiatives of the industry and has played an active role in developing many of these standards. Our products support all the industry standards allowing our products to fully integrate into manufacturing communities, rather than creating isolated measurement islands. We see the next area of standardization focus becoming task specific measuring uncertainties for CMM measurements.

We have witnessed the uptake of structured light scanning over the past decade and the need to manage huge point clouds with real-time CAD comparison. Some metrology software have struggled to keep pace. How has the Metrologic Group made out in managing these huge clouds?

Indeed, huge point clouds have challenged conventional CMM software. We started handling point clouds back in 2005. Over the period 2008-2011, we performed major development work in this area allowing improved measuring uncertainties along with internal processes to better handle complex applications such as those associated with sheet metal inspection. As an agnostic metrology software supplier, we get to process point clouds generated from a huge variety of sensors, including micron level accuracy, which requires a very high-level of processing to ensure no degradation of accuracy. No conventional CMM software is able to integrate such powerful processing of points with reliable and repeatable feature extraction. The next development phase is the analysis of surfaces with additional advanced filtering. Metrologic Group offers true 3D point cloud metrology software with the absolute highest levels of processing accuracy.

What do you see as the future trends in metrology software?

Metrology software must be modular, versatile and comprehensive, offering customers a choice of ‘whatever is best for them’. Metrology software must also become more adaptable to seamless integration with the next generation of metrology devices. Rules based (A.I.) is becoming more prevalent and we see, in the very near future, software will drive much of the measurement tasks automatically rather than being driven by today’s traditional inspection part program. This exciting future is not so far away.

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